Tag Archives: Writing

The Creative Engine

By MOHANALAKSHMI RAJAKUMAR, Staff Writer

DOHA, QATAR — I quit my corporate job in June 2011 to devote more time to my writing.

In the eight months since, I’ve spent many Saturdays in the library (as well as other days, nights, and even more hours at the dining table which doubles as a desk) honing my craft, getting manuscripts ready for reader consumption. I made a publication schedule and have four e-books to show for sacrificing a full-time salary. Slowly but surely I’m figuring out the vendors I want to use – for an army of designers, editors, and marketing gurus underpin indie authors – and calibrating the Mohadoha process.

In the meantime, during the off-hours, I’m also exercising. Yes, you read that right. Amongst the competing demands of a toddler, husband, students from two universities, fiction, scholarship, and blogging, I’m making at least three hours a week to sweat, grunt, and generally tell the rest of it get lost for the span of 20 to 45 to 60 minutes.

Exercise doesn’t come naturally to me. After all, I’m Indian: think Gandhi as a kid with long hair, and blue, instead of wire-rimmed, glasses…and you have me most of my life. At least the part before I hit my late twenties and a job that had me over 80 sedentary hours at my desk a week. Five years and a baby later, the exercise started about twelve months ago as vanity, pure and simple. While the extremities (arms and legs) were still South Asian-skinny, the rest was not.

Now a little year past weekly workouts, my brain gets a fuzzy feeling on a week when I’ve done everything except let it take a break and give the muscles their turn. Almost like the feeling when I have gone more than one day without writing in my journal. While writing is good for my creative soul, exercise maintains the entire house that is me. I recognize this need for physicality a First World problem: if you’re walking five miles to get the water you need for the day, the likelihood of any spare pounds that need running off like a gerbil on a treadmill is very small.

Yet fitness goes beyond flashing abs no one wants to see on Facebook profile photos. More and more I’m learning about the need for physical as well as mental exertion.   A friend gave me Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. That’s right, he of the prolific, 800+page novels, runs every day. For at least ten miles. We don’t talk about this kind of discipline: the kind that means we look after ourselves as well as everyone else or even at the minimum our cars (which sooner or later get that oil change to keep running). As artists we compare ourselves to people like Hemingway (alcoholic) or Van Gogh (self mutilator) rather than marathon running Murakami.  Which legacy would you like to leave behind? Not just for your readers…but those who really knew you?

And that’s my giving a damn.

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Dr. Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a well-traveled scholar of literature and a freelance writer based in Qatar. She is a co-founder of the Maktaba project, a Children’s Library concept starting up in Doha, along with being one of the most reliable people you’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing in your life. Follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.

More from Mohana:

»That’s “Dr. Miss” to You

»A Rising Comic’s Manifesto

»Seeing But Not Seen

»On-Stage But Off-Camera

Tomorrow is the final edition (for now) of The Daily Damn! See you there, and thank you for reading all of these months!!

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Afterwards, Part 17: The Series Finale

By ANDREW FLYNN, Storyteller

***

»Previously, on Afterwards.

***

Levi slowly walked down a badly-lit road that was a few neighborhoods away from where Dale’s grenade had ended up psychotic instance of more death and destruction. In the span of a couple of days, he had reunited with members of his immediate family only to lose them again. This time around it was permanently. So he played these events out in his head as he wandered aimlessly in and out of his own head.

Just short of four in the morning, Levi realized that he wasn’t really that tired. This fact was pretty superhuman of him considering that he had driven nearly the whole day, been in two near-assassinations, a vehicle explosion, and was witness to the single-largest terrorist attack in the country’s history. It was, at the end of it, the endorphins that kept him wide awake. And they raced around his head and inside of his body at a rate faster than the speed of light. Or so it seemed like anyways.

He whipped out his cell phone and dialed for a cab. In the matter of ten minutes, the taxi arrived and Levi was off into the night.

Considering all that had happened today, Levi had to go to the once place that he may feel somewhat safe. The cab he hired quickly pulled into Memorial Hospital, the only full-service medical center in all of Blue Springs.

Looking as disheveled as entirely possible, Levi sidled up to the Nurses’ station just by the Admissions desk. A attractive woman in her late forties gazed up from her work ledger with her eyes popping.

“Holy shit, are you okay, Sir?” asked the surprised nurse.

“Oh yeah, I’m fine, thank you,” Levi assured. “But I’m looking to see if you have someone that came through here.”

“Okay, sure. Name?”

“Kravitz. Stephanie Kravitz.”

Instantly, the nurse’s eyes began to tear up. She stood up from her station and walked around her desk with her arms extended.

“Oh my God, you must be her brother.”

Levi accepted the outstretched arms of the stranger. The two held each other for five seconds, and Levi released first.

“I am. Please tell me that I can see her.”

The nurse looked at him once more, and then went to grab her office phone’s handset.

“Of course, I’ll call the attending doctor over.”

Levi turned away from the nurse, and muttered a soft thank you.

In the matter of a moment, a tall, thin doctor came down the corridor of the hospital. He signaled over to Levi to meet him at the entrance of another one of the hospital’s wings. Levi moved quickly to join the pace of the lanky doctor who would bring him into the guts of the hospital.

“Mr. Kravitz, I’m happy to show you where your sister is.”

“I imagine that we’re walking to the morgue in this place?”

The doctor was straightforward with Levi, “Yes, it’s just down the hall here and around the corner.”

The two walked in near-unison with not another word between them. In the span of two short minute ticks of Levi’s watch, he found himself in the morgue with the doctor. They stood in front of a table that was covered in two different types of sheets.

“If you want to take a few minutes, I’ll just be over there,” the doctor said, pointing to a computer desk in the nearby corner of the morgue.

“Sure, Doc. Thank you,” Levi said.

The doctor was then careful to remove the two sheets only to neck-height, revealing a pale, yet serene-looking Stephanie. All of the color had drained from her face, but there was a certain alabaster innocence that displayed on her earthly remains.

Levi broke down and collapsed to his knees at the sight of his deceased sister. At this, the doctor steadfastly removed himself from the scene.

There was nothing that Levi could say to anyone. He cried uncontrollably, sobbing loudly so much that it echoed and reverberated about the dank, cold morgue that surrounded him. Tears were shed, as he ran his hands all over his face and head in the purest display of anguish. All that he left were memories. Levi now realized that he was the only one of his entire family left.

The doctor reappeared from his desk, and began to coax Levi away from her body.

“Mr. Kravitz, I’ll take you out of here now,” the doctor said, carefully taking Levi’s forearm in order to turn him away from Stephanie’s corpse.

“If you think it’s best, Doc,” Levi lamented.

The doctor eventually got Levi out of the morgue and slowed his pace so that the two men could have a word face-to-face and without movement. As they stopped walking, the doctor got Levi’s awareness by giving him stern eye contact while having his arms folded securely at his waist.

“Now, Mr. Kravitz, I want to first give you my condolences for your loss. Please know that everyone here will do everything they can to help you through this process.”

“I appreciate that, Doc,” Levi said, turning his red eyes to the tiled floor of the hospital.

“But in all of this, you’re going to go through a lot of things, some which you may not be ready for.”

“It’s death, Doc. There’s been nothing but death all around me these last few years. I’m a cop, I see it every day. And now with this…my Dad, my sister, Chicago, my Mom a few years ago, countless homicides back home with NYPD, it’s death and I should really learn to get used to it, but it’s still death and I don’t know when I’ll get used to it!”

The doctor chose to let Levi rant, as it was the only way Levi had to express himself at the moment.

“Death is pervasive, Mr. Kravitz. Seems like it’s everywhere. But you have to also know that life is around you too. You have yourself to take care of amongst all of this. And you should also know that you now have a niece.”

Levi jolted his head back up to meet the doctor’s words. He wanted to see them come out of his mouth for himself and not just hear them.

Levi shot back, “A what?!”

The doctor gleaned a small smile back to Levi.

“A niece,” the doctor stated. “You have a healthy baby niece. Only twenty-four weeks, very premature, but she’s alive and she’s in our N.I.C.U. right now.”

“A niece?” asked a bewildered Levi. “Stephanie was preg, no, no, she couldn’t have been! She was pregnant?”

“She was, and even though she passed almost immediately after she received her wounds from the bullets, the baby wasn’t harmed at all, and we delivered her shortly after Stephanie arrived here.”
“Doc, you’ve got to be kidding me here.”

“Come with me, Mr. Kravitz, I’ll show you.”

Almost in unison once again, Levi and the doctor walked very fast down a few twisty hallways in the hospital. There was disbelief all over Levi’s face, but the doctor reassured him many times what the reality of the situation was.

Upon entering double-doors of Memorial Hospital’s N.I.C.U., there were four different stations where premature infants were being attended to. The doctor guided Levi over to the farthest one. The pink-hued nameplate read, “Baby Kravitz”.

The infant inside the tiny incubator weighed only three pounds and five ounces. Such a helpless-looking life form, it resembled an actual baby only by a little. Levi stood with the doctor for a few moments, just gazing down at the little face, the little fingers, the little toes. All very little, all impossible considering the events of the past few days. But all very real.

“I’ll leave you for awhile, Mr. Kravitz,” the doctor explained. “There are nurses here to help you right now, in case you have any questions.”

“Oh. Okay,” Levi said.

“Talk to her, she’s your niece. She wants to hear your voice.”

The doctor left Levi to her. All Levi could do was be honest, and he began the pour out what remains of his heart that he had leftover from the last few days.

“Hi, Baby. I’m…your…I’m your Uncle. All of this is so new, and so sudden. But it looks like it’s me and you in this world. So much has happened. So much that I’ll tell you about one day. One day when you’re bigger and can understand how crazy this world you’re now in really is. The world that we’re in. Together. I will take care of you, and I’ll be the one constant in your life, regardless of what happens. There’s…so many things I don’t understand right now. Maybe one day we’ll figure them out together.”

###

Thank you for reading Afterwards! It was an absolute pleasure to have you in the audience!!
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